Phil Handy began the NBA portion of his journey to becoming one of the most respected and well-renowned assistant coaches in the basketball world with the Lakers, where he got to work closely with Kobe Bryant. He left for a while, but he’s now back with the team, and just helped them win a ring while working with LeBron James (who he also coached with the Cleveland Cavaliers).
That experience of having coached two of the best players ever in their primes gives Handy unique perspective on the ultimate basketball legacies of both men. He told David Aldridge of The Athletic that they’re more similar than some might think:
“Everybody knows Kob and ‘Bron are different guys, personality-wise,” Handy said. “But their work ethic, and their approach to the game, is identical. The way they study their opponents. The way that they break down their own games. The way that they take care of their bodies off the floor. Just the time spent in terms of wanting to be at the top and wanting to compete, they’re exactly the same in that regard. There are so many similarities in just their Alpha mentality, their competitive spirit, and then their confidence.
“Like, people always question ‘Bron sometimes for whatever decisions he makes, but he’s always been a guy that’s tried to make the right basketball play. (But) being confident? His confidence? His, being around him and Kob, there’s no lack of confidence from either one of those dudes, on anything they can’t do on the floor.”
This is as fair a breakdown of the comparisons and contrasts between the two as you’ll ever see. Bryant and James were obviously different, but the work ethic it takes to get to their level is universal. Obviously both were aided by different natural abilities, but no one can ever accuse either star of ever not working to find every little edge possible to get the most out of their skills. Handy got to see that up-close-and-personal with Bryant, and is now witnessing the current-day version of it in the way James approaches things.
They’re different animals, but the same beast.
People can have their hot takes and arguments about this, but Handy has actually seen how both men approached things, and has more of a knowledge base to use to compare the two than just about anyone. The Lakers were lucky to have his perspective this year, and should be thankful that despite rampant rumors about the Brooklyn Nets trying to poach him, it doesn’t seem like Handy is going anywhere.